Psalm 139:13
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) For . . .—The mystery of birth regarded as one of the greatest mysteries (see Ecclesiastes 11:5), is a proof of God’s omniscience.

Possessed.—The context seems to require formed, fashioned, as, according to Gesenius, in Deuteronomy 32:6, (Authorised Version “bought”) (Comp. Genesis 14:19, where maker should be read for possessor.)

For “reins” see Psalm 16:7.

Covered me.—Most critics render here didst weave me. (Comp. Job 10:11.) But the usual sense of the word cover or protect, suits equally well. The prime thought is that every birth is a divine creation.

Psalm 139:13. Thou hast possessed — Or, thou dost possess, my reins — The most inward and hidden part of my body, supposed also to be the seat of men’s lusts and passions: thou dwellest in them, thou art the owner and governor of them, and therefore must needs know them. My most secret thoughts and intentions, and the innermost recesses of my soul, are subject to thy control. Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb — With skin and flesh, as it is expressed Job 10:11. Dr. Waterland renders this verse, Thou hast formed my reins; thou hast compacted me.

139:7-16 We cannot see God, but he can see us. The psalmist did not desire to go from the Lord. Whither can I go? In the most distant corners of the world, in heaven, or in hell, I cannot go out of thy reach. No veil can hide us from God; not the thickest darkness. No disguise can save any person or action from being seen in the true light by him. Secret haunts of sin are as open before God as the most open villanies. On the other hand, the believer cannot be removed from the supporting, comforting presence of his Almighty Friend. Should the persecutor take his life, his soul will the sooner ascend to heaven. The grave cannot separate his body from the love of his Saviour, who will raise it a glorious body. No outward circumstances can separate him from his Lord. While in the path of duty, he may be happy in any situation, by the exercise of faith, hope, and prayer.For thou hast possessed my reins - The word here rendered "possessed" means properly to "set upright," to "erect," and hence, the derivative of the verb is applied to a cane or reed, as being erect. Then the word means to found, to create, Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22 - as the heavens and the earth; and then, to get, to gain, to purchase, etc. Here the word seems to be used in its original sense, to make, create, etc. The idea is, not as in our translation, that God "possessed" or "owned" them but that he had "made" them, and that, "therefore," he knew all about them. The word "reins" means literally the "kidneys;" and then, it comes to denote the inward part, the mind, the soul, the seat of the desires, affections, and passions. Jeremiah 11:20. See Psalm 7:9, note; Job 19:27, note. The meaning here is, that God had made him; that the innermost recesses of his being had been constituted as they are by God; and that, "therefore," he must be able to see all that there is in the very depths of the soul, however it may be hidden from the eye of man.

Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb - The word here rendered "cover" means properly to interweave; to weave; to knit together, and the literal translation would be, "Thou hast "woven" me in my mother's womb, meaning that God had put his parts together, as one who weaves cloth, or who makes a basket. So it is rendered by DeWette and by Gesenius (Lexicon). The original word has, however, also the idea of protecting, as in a booth or hut, woven or knit together - to wit, of boughs and branches. The former signification best suits the connection; and then the sense would be, that as God had made him - as he had formed his members, and united them in a bodily frame and form before he was born - he must be able to understand all his thoughts and feelings. As he was not concealed from God before he saw the light, so he could not be anywhere.

PSALM 139

Ps 139:1-24. After presenting the sublime doctrines of God's omnipresence and omniscience, the Psalmist appeals to Him, avowing his innocence, his abhorrence of the wicked, and his ready submission to the closest scrutiny. Admonition to the wicked and comfort to the pious are alike implied inferences from these doctrines.

13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

Psalm 139:13

"For thou hast possessed my reins." Thou art the owner of my inmost parts and passions: not the indweller and observer only, but the acknowledged lord and possessor of my most secret self. The word "reins" signifies the kidneys, which by the Hebrews were supposed to be the seat of the desires and longings; but perhaps it indicates here the most hidden and vital portion of the man; this God cloth not only inspect, and visit, but it is his own; he is as much at home there as a landlord on his own estate, or a proprietor in his own house. "Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb." There I lay hidden - covered by thee. Before I could know thee, or aught else, thou hadst a care for me, and didst hide me away as a treasure till thou shouldst see fit to bring me to the light. Thus the Psalmist describes the intimacy which God had with him. In his most secret part - his reins, and in his most secret condition - yet unborn, he was under the control and guardianship of God.

Psalm 139:14

"I will praise thee:" a good resolve, and one which he was even now carrying out. Those who are praising God are the very men who will praise him. Those who wish to praise have subjects for adoration ready to hand. We too seldom remember our creation, and all the skill and kindness bestowed upon our frame, but the sweet singer of Israel was better instructed, and therefore he prepares for the chief musician a song concerning our nativity and all the fashioning which precedes it. We cannot begin too soon to bless our Maker, who began so soon to bless us: even in the act of creation he created reasons for our praising his name. "For I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Who can gaze even upon a model of our anatomy without wonder and awe? Who could dissect a portion of the human frame without marvelling at its delicacy, and trembling at its frailty? The Psalmist had scarcely peered within the veil which hides the nerves, sinews, and blood-vessels from common inspection; the science of anatomy was quite unknown to him; and yet he had seen enough to arouse his admiration of the work and his reverence for the Worker. "Marvellous are thy works." These parts of my frame are all thy works; and though they be home works, close under my own eye, yet are they wonderful to the last degree. They are works within my own self, yet are they beyond my understanding, and appear to me as so many miracles of skill and power. We need not go to the ends of the earth for marvels, nor even across our own threshold; they abound in our own bodies.

"And that my soul knoweth right well." He was no agnostic - he knew; he was no doubter - his soul knew; he was no dupe - his soul knew right well. Those know indeed and of a truth who first know the Lord, and then know all things in him. He was made to know the marvellous nature of God's work with assurance and accuracy, for he had found by experience that the Lord is a master-worker, performing inimitable wonders when accomplishing his kind designs. If we are marvelously wrought upon even before we are born, what shall we say of the Lord's dealings with us after we quit his secret workshop, and he directs our pathway through the pilgrimage of life? What shall we not say of that new birth which is even more mysterious than the first, and exhibits even more the love and wisdom of the Lord.

Psalm 139:15

"My substance was not hid from thee." The substantial part of my being was before thine all-seeing eye; the bones which make my frame were put together by thine hand. The essential materials of my being before they were arranged were all within the range of thine eye. I was hidden from all human knowledge, but not from thee: thou hast ever been intimately acquainted with me. "When I was made in secret." Most chastely and beautifully is here described the formation of our being before the time of our birth. A great artist will often labour alone in his studio, and not suffer his work to be seen until it is finished; even so did the Lord fashion us where no eye beheld us, and the veil was not lifted till every member was complete. Much of the formation of our inner man still proceeds in secret; hence the more of solitude the better for us. The true church also is being fashioned in secret, so that none may cry, "Lo, here!" or "Lo, there!" as if that which is visible could ever be identical with the invisibly growing body of Christ. "And curiously wrought it in the lowest parts of the earth." "Embroidered with great skill," is an accurate poetical description of the creation of veins, sinews, muscles, nerves, etc. What tapestry can equal the human fabric? This work is wrought as much in private as if it had been accomplished in the grave, or in the darkness of the abyss. The expressions are poetical, beautifully veiling, though not absolutely concealing, the real meaning. God's intimate knowledge of us from the beginning, and even before it, is here most charmingly set forth. Cannot he who made us thus wondrously when we were not, still carry on his work of power till he has perfected us, though we feel unable to aid in the process, and are lying in great sorrow and self-loathing, as though cast into the lowest parts of the earth?

Psalm 139:16

continued...

Thou hast possessed; or, thou dost possess; thou dwellest in them, thou art the Owner and Governor of them, and therefore must needs know them. Or,

thou hast formed, as some of the ancients and others render it.

My reins; the most inward and hidden part of the body, supposed also to be the seat of men’s lusts and passions.

Thou hast covered me; either,

1. With that covering called the after-birth, wherein the infant is wrapped and preserved in the womb by the wonderful care of Divine Providence. Or,

2. With skin and flesh, as it is expressed, Job 10:11.

For thou hast possessed my reins,.... His thoughts and counsels, the reins being the seat of instruction and counsel; hence God is called the trier of the reins, and searcher of the hearts of the children of men; he is the possessor or master of their most secret thoughts, and thoroughly knows them; see Psalm 7:9; they are also the seat of the affections, which are naturally sinful and inordinate, and set upon carnal and earthly things; but the Lord possesses and engrosses the affections of his people in the best sense, Psalm 73:25; moreover the reins are the seat of lust, the bed in which it is conceived and brought forth, and God knows the first motions of it there; and that the imagination of the thought of man's heart is evil continually, Genesis 6:5;

thou hast covered me in my mother's womb; with the secundine, or afterbirth, in which he carefully wrapped him, a proof of his knowledge of him, and care for him in the womb; or with skin and flesh he covered his bones with as they grew there; see Job 10:11; or the sense is, he protected and defended him in his embryo state, and when ripe for birth took him out from thence, and held him up ever since, Psalm 22:9; he had his eye on him when no other eye could see him, not even his mother that bare him, and before ever he himself saw light. The Targum is,

"thou hast founded me in my mother's womb.''

For thou hast {h} possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

(h) You have made me in all parts and therefore must know me.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. For it was thou that didst form my reins] Thou is emphatic. The connexion of thought expressed by for is not obvious; but it appears to give a reason for the intimate knowledge of which the preceding verses have spoken. ‘Thou knowest me, for Thou didst create me.’ Psalm 139:14 will then be a parenthetical exclamation of adoring wonder. The transposition of Psalm 139:13-14, proposed by some critics, removes the difficulty and gives a clearer connexion of thought, but poetry does not bind itself by forms of logic.

my reins] The inmost seat of the emotions, which God ‘tries’ (Psalm 7:9).

thou hast covered me] Better, thou didst knit me together, with bones and sinews. Cp. Job 10:8-11.

13–18. God must know the Psalmist perfectly, for He ordered the first beginnings of his life, and foresaw all his destiny.

Verse 13. - For thou hast possessed my reins. Thou knowest me and seest me always, because thou madest me. Thy omniscience and thy omnipresence both rest upon thine omnipotence. Thou hast covered me (rather, woven me) in my mother's womb (comp. Job 10:11). Psalm 139:13The fact that man is manifest to God even to the very bottom of his nature, and in every place, is now confirmed from the origin of man. The development of the child in the womb was looked upon by the Israelitish Chokma as one of the greatest mysteries, Ecclesiastes 11:5; and here the poet praises this coming into being as a marvellous work of the omniscient and omnipresent omnipotence of God. קנה here signifies condere; and סכך not: to cover, protect, as in Psalm 140:8; Job 40:22, prop. to cover with network, to hedge in, but: to plait, interweave, viz., with bones, sinews, and veins, like שׂכך in Job 10:11. The reins are made specially prominent in order to mark the, the seat of the tenderest, most secret emotions, as the work of Him who trieth the heart and the reins. The προσευχή becomes in Psalm 139:14 the εὐχαριστία: I give thanks unto Thee that I have wonderfully come into being under fearful circumstances, i.e., circumstances exciting a shudder, viz., of astonishment (נוראות as in Psalm 65:6). נפלה ( equals נפלא) is the passive to הפלה, Psalm 4:4; Psalm 17:7. Hitzig regards נפליתה (Thou hast shown Thyself wonderful), after the lxx, Syriac, Vulgate, and Jerome, as the only correct reading; but the thought which is thereby gained comes indeed to be expressed in the following line, Psalm 139:14, which sinks down into tautology in connection with this reading. `otsem (collectively equivalent to עצמים, Ecclesiastes 11:5) is the bones, the skeleton, and, starting from that idea, more generally the state of being as a sum-total of elements of being. אשׁר, without being necessarily a conjunction (Ew. 333, a), attaches itself to the suffix of עצמי. רקּם, "to be worked in different colours, or also embroidered," of the system of veins ramifying the body, and of the variegated colouring of its individual members, more particularly of the inward parts; perhaps, however, more generally with a retrospective conception of the colours of the outline following the undeveloped beginning, and of the forming of the members and of the organism in general.

(Note: In the Talmud the egg of a bird or of a reptile is called מרקּמת, when the outlines of the developed embryo are visible in it; and likewise the mole (mola), when traces of human; organization can be discerned in it.)

The mother's womb is here called not merely סתר (cf. Aeschylus' Eumenides, 665: ἐν σκοτοισι νηδύος τεθραμμένη, and the designation of the place where the foetus is formed as "a threefold darkness' in the Koran, Sur. xxxix. 8), the ē of which is retained here in pause (vid., Bttcher, Lehrbuch, 298), but by a bolder appellation תּחתּיּות ארץ, the lowest parts of the earth, i.e., the interior of the earth (vid., on Psalm 63:10) as being the secret laboratory of the earthly origin, with the same retrospective reference to the first formation of the human body out of the dust of the earth, as when Job says, Job 1:21 : "naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither" - שׁמּה, viz., εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν μητέρα πάντων, Sir. 40:1. The interior of Hades is also called בּטן שׁאול in Jonah 2:2, Sir. 51:5. According to the view of Scripture the mode of Adam's creation is repeated in the formation of every man, Job 33:6, cf. Job 33:4. The earth was the mother's womb of Adam, and the mother's womb out of which the child of Adam comes forth is the earth out of which it is taken.

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